The pulses contribute to recover and maintain the health of degraded lands, according to a study.

Sometimes finding a possible solution is as simple as looking back. The Roman Marco Terencio Varro (116-27 BC), man of letters and action who survived Pompey and Julius Caesar, to the hazards of civil war and the end of the Republic, he warned in his agricultural treaty Of rerum rusticarum. “It is not right not to sow anything in the [ground] lean. In the poorest land, what does not need a lot of juice, such as pulses, is more appropriate. ”

This recommendation of Varron becomes fully topical today, when 33% of the world’s soils are degraded, a term used to say that they do not enjoy good health and therefore do not serve for the activities that were being practiced in them, such as cultivation. Because that figure includes 20% of the arable land and 43% of the grasslands, affected by phenomena such as erosion, salinization or urbanization. On World Soil Day, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has presented a report in which it updates the councils of the Romanian and presents pulses as a great ally in the struggle to restore and keep those lands in good condition.
The land is, in the cientific field, “the natural envoirment for plant`s growth” We mean, a fundamental element from agriculture and, therefore, of human nutrition. But meanwhile the the lack of other basic elements – like the water – is well known and it concern, the inform presened this Monday regrets about that the availability of soil is something that is taken for granted.

On the other hand, highlighted by the inform, the progressive growth of the population and the change in the pattern of consumption (for example, more and more meat is consumed, therefore more food must be produced for livestock) force to make the most of each piece of land. More and more must be produced in less space and with less water. And that pressure, which among other things leads to the use of greater amounts of synthetics, also puts the availability of soils at risk.

That is why FAO and the entire United Nations system are calling on making lentils, beans, peas and company an allied for that land care. Hence the international year of soils (2015), has now followed the International Year of Pulses. “Soils and pulses embody a unique symbiosis,” said the director general of the Rome-based agency, José Graziano da Silva.

Cereals grown on land previously planted with pulses produce an average of 1.5 tons more per hectare

The study emphasizes that pulses, in addition to collaborating in the fight against hunger because of their great nutritional value and performance – and as an alternative source of protein to animal foods – help to improve productivity while allowing regulate the climate and protect ecosystems. And, of course, they take care of the soil.
The edible seeds of pulses can (through certain bacteria) fix the atmospheric nitrogen and make soluble the phosphate ions of elements such as calcium and iron phosphates. In short, it makes the plants can take advantage of these nutrients. They also increase the amount of organic matter present in soils, maintaining biodiversity and their health.

All this means that, by cultivating vegetables, there is less need to use synthetic fertilizers (up to 100 kilos of nitrogen fertilizer less per hectare). Because the study estimates that cereals grown on land where pulses were planted earlier produce an average of 1.5 tons more per hectare. And the report also estimates the annual savings that this biological fixation of nitrogen can have on synthetic products: about $ 10 billion per year.

As Varron said, pulses are a good choice for those “poor” or “lean” soils, but also to rotate crops and maintain the health of the most fertile and rich. Because it is expected that phenomena such as urbanization continue increasing, and that by 2050 40% to 70% more food must be produced. In other words, we still have to squeeze more soils. That is why, concludes the report, it is a good idea to take advantage of the fact that these and pulses are made for each other.